5 Key Brainstorming Techniques UX Designers Need to Know

brainstorm of designers

User Experience (UX) designers are in huge demand right now as businesses seek to streamline their online presences and attract maximum conversions. And if you're thinking about a career change, learning the secrets of user experience optimization could be a good way to go.

In that case, you'll need to learn these key techniques which help today's leading designers brainstorm innovative new ways to make web sites work smoothly. So let's discover the mental tricks which lie behind great design, and give you a head start when taking the user experience route.

1. Consider every angle with SCAMPER visualization

The best place to start a UX brainstorm is by creating an overview via the popular SCAMPER system. First introduced in the 1960s, this product design mantra features seven different pillars, all of which combine to give you a thorough sense of how your design is progressing.

Listed in order, the seven sections are Substitution, Combination, Adaptation, Modification, Putting to other uses, Elimination, and Rearrangement. Some involve switching elements around to see if they disrupt the UX experience. Others help to remove unnecessary elements. And some look at efficiency, helping you create smoother pathways through websites.

With a good SCAMPER report, you'll have a broad perspective across the whole project - gold dust when ensuring a silky smooth user experience.

2. Put on the right thinking hat

Lateral thinking guru Edward de Bono introduced his "Six Thinking Hats" concept in 1985 and they still have a lot of relevance for contemporary UX projects. Like SCAMPER, they seek to cover maximum ground in a brainstorm session, helping you take control of every element - but with a focus on thinking creatively. Here are the six hats that you'll need to wear:

  • White or "Logic" - What basic facts are you working with?
  • Yellow or "Optimism" - What is the best case outcome and what works well now?
  • Black or "Pessimism" - Conversely, what's not working and what are the major risk areas?
  • Red or "Emotion" - What does the designer feel about the project? Does the user experience really work on an emotional level?
  • Green or "Creativity" - Can we create something totally new to achieve better results?
  • Blue or "Managing" - Are the rules and processes in place to get the best outcomes?

As with SCAMPER, each aspect has its own importance and each hat needs to be worn seriously. Taken together, they can give you added confidence and awareness of exactly where your UX project is headed.

3. Explore the potential of mind mapping

When we try to get from A to B, maps are absolutely essential. That also applies to UX journeys when we are trying to engineer the best possible online experience. And that's where mind mapping comes in.

Mind mapping is a basic visualization technique which deals primarily with concrete problems. The general idea is to write down a problem and build a cluster of different solutions around that problem.

For example, you might define the problem as "website speed" and add points like "use of graphics and video", "reduce redirects", "use browser caching" or "measure first input delay".

By building clusters of related problems and solutions, you can organize work flows and focus on making effective interventions that are based around actual challenges. And you can take every possible solution into consideration as you brainstorm the overall project.

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4. Leverage the power of groups

Most UX designers don't work in a vacuum. Instead, they are part of larger teams involving coders, SEO experts, managers, writers, and engineers. Each project will have its own unique team attached, and it's vital to brainstorm the ideas of every participant to get maximum input.

Fortunately, there are some great ways to do this, and the best of all is probably group sketching. It might sound like a parlor game, but group sketching can leverage group expertise in creative ways, so take it seriously.

Here's the basic idea: start with a theme or problem and add 3-4 points based on your own perspective to a piece of paper. Fold the paper and ask a colleague to do the same, and proceed until every team member has contributed.

Discuss the results in a physical or online group meeting and find out why perspectives diverge (if they do). The diverse material group sketching provides should add extra avenues that you may well miss on your own.

5. Get strategic with a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for "Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats" and it's one of the most famous business analysis tools. It's commonly used to assess business rivals, and you can certainly use it to match up your user experience ideas with alternatives. But the SWOT prism can also be used alone to optimize your project without reference to rivals.

The four elements of a good SWOT brainstorm are as follows:

  • Strengths - What is working well with our website or app at the moment? What doesn't need to be changed.
  • Weaknesses - Why are we optimizing our site and not leaving it alone? What user experience issues are we solving?
  • Opportunities - What can we achieve via optimizing user experience, and how does this improve our overall organization?
  • Threats - What are the risks involved, and what are the threats emerging from similar site or apps from our direct competitors?

The great thing about SWOT is that it's highly focused. You can zero in on ways to improve user experiences, take into account competition, and assess potential risks. It's an excellent starting point for any brainstorming operation.

Refine your mental methods to achieve UX mastery

User experience is one of the most profitable niches for coders and web developers, and it's a fascinating digital niche. At Ironhack, we offer bootcamps to suit people who want to explore user experience and web design careers, and we will equip everyone with the brainstorming skills required to master any project. So take a look at our UX UI Design Bootcamp and find a package that suits your needs.

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